3 Challenges of Working Remotely

One of the biggest obstacles for a distributed workforce is the lack of personal connection, and while there are several ways to build stronger relationships with your team, the effects of the initial disconnect can have a lasting impact on the success of your company.
Here are just a few of the challenges of working remotely, along with ways to address them while you work to build a deeper understanding and commitment from your employees.

Challenge #1: No “Buy In”

In any relationship, it takes a while to get to know and understand the other person. The same is true for the people on your team. Your staff need time to adjust to one another (working styles and preferences, communication styles, etc.), so it can take a while to develop the relationships that will make your company culture thrive. It can also take a while for new team members to understand the mission and inner workings of your company as a whole, which can make it hard for them to “buy in” to what you’re doing at the beginning.
One solution: Have regular accountability calls with the people on your team. Use a service like iMeet to have face-to-face interactions that incorporate live video streaming with voice so that you can start putting faces and voices to names. Have calls every two weeks so that they’re not too demanding time-wise, and stick to a strict agenda and time frame for each call. Start by letting the person know how things have been going for the company overall, and then let the employee share what he or she has accomplished over the last two weeks, as well as what’s on the list to do over the coming two weeks. Make sure to reiterate what the person’s primary focus should be (and why) so that he or she understands how his or her job impacts the company as a whole.

Challenge #2: Clock-Focused Thinking

In almost any working arrangement, it’s easy for employees to focus solely on the clock, instead of on results or the overall vision of the company. Rather than keeping a constant pulse on how a given activity or task relates to the bottom line, employees more commonly monitor how much time it takes to complete, which can lead to a lot of wasted time on trivial tasks that don’t add real value.
One solution: Give employees a single metric to watch that isn’t time-related. Revenue, expenses, leads captured, new clients signed, or website visitors are all metrics that can be influenced up or down based on an employee’s activities, and by tying his or her efforts to one of those numbers, it’s far more likely that he or she will focus on activities that more directly impact it. Be sure to concentrate on that one key metric during your accountability calls, too, so that the person begins to see that that’s how you’re measuring his or her success overall, not by how many hours he or she clocks in a given week.

Challenge #3: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

One thing I’ve experienced within my own business is that, when there’s a lull on the client’s end, I’m tempted to take advantage of the downtime to focus on other areas of my business, making it possible for days or weeks to go by with no contact between myself and the client. This can lead to a breakdown in communication and to lost momentum within a given project, so when working with members of your own team, it’s important to maintain communication, even when things might be going a little more slowly than usual.
One solution: At the start of each day, send a quick email to team members to let them know where you are with things, what you’re waiting for (whether on your end or theirs), and what the next step will be as soon as that “waiting for” item is in hand. This keeps everyone on the same page and connected overall so that there’s no loss in momentum or communication.
In the end, regular communication and feedback helps to ensure that most of these problems are averted and that you and your team remain on the same page and moving forward with the goals and mission of the company.
What problems have you experienced with working remotely, and how did you fix them?
Photo courtesy Flickr user Y0$HIMI